Exposed FBI documents shed light on the bureau's failure to prepare and prevent the Jan. 6 insurrection

Exposed FBI documents shed light on the bureau's failure to prepare and prevent the Jan. 6 insurrection
FBI Director Christopher Wray in 2017, Wikimedia Commons

As investigations continue for the insurrection on Jan. 6, new Federal Bureau Investigation (FBI) documents are now shedding light on a number of revelations about the days leading up to the deadly day at the capital building.

According to Rolling Stone, the highlighted documents were first obtained by the nonprofit government transparency organization, Property of the People. The bureau has reportedly admitted that, in reference to Jan. 6, it "lacked the authority to monitor social media activity ahead of the pro-Trump insurrection, but it did exactly that during 2020 racial justice and police violence protests," per Rolling Stone.

The outlet also reports that the FBI has acknowledged that it failed in preparing for the U.S. Capitol riots and did not have the authority to properly surveil social media platforms, which is where most of the far-right organizers planned their actions before traveling to Washington, D.C.

Adding to that, the bureau also admitted that it failed to prevent the chaos that unfolded as lawmakers gathered to certify the Electoral College vote. Although the bureau has made efforts to enhance its monitoring efforts, it argues that it still lacks substantial authority for social media monitoring.

Per Rolling Stone:

"The documents refer to teams of employees engaged in what law-enforcement agencies call 'social-media exploitation,' or SOMEX. According to the documents, SOMEX teams gather reams of data from social media and distribute that information to special agents and other law-enforcement representatives. The documents show SOMEX data included in situation reports, or 'sitreps,' distributed within the bureau.

“The documents bring into relief three consistent truths about the FBI,” says Ryan Shapiro, executive director of Property of the People. 'One: At its core, the FBI is a political police force that primarily targets the left while ignoring or outright enabling the far-right. Two: FBI spokespersons lie like they breathe. Three: The Bureau shamelessly exploits national crises to expand the already dystopian reach of its surveillance.'”

However, Rolling Stone notes that legal experts argue otherwise and are saying "the documents illustrate how much latitude the bureau already has to trawl social media for information without needing additional authority."

“I think it has more authority than it needs frankly,” says Faiza Patel, co-director of the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “What we’ve seen basically is that the FBI did not take this [Jan. 6] threat as seriously as they should have.”

Addressing the latest situation, an FBI spokesperson released a statement to Rolling Stone. “The FBI uses social media tools to search publicly available information pertinent to predicated investigations to identify and respond to threats of violence, acts of terrorism, and potential federal violations within the scope of the FBI’s mission. As with any technology, the FBI routinely reviews and updates its social media capabilities to ensure the continued utility of these tools in accordance with law, regulation, and policy.”

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